Book Review: Marmee by Sarah Miller

I cannot explain how happy this book makes me! Little Women is, far and away, my favorite novel and has been for the majority of my life. I have consumed this story in a myriad of different forms and have had so many surprising parallels between my own life and that of Jo March’s fictional one. But this book…oh, this book!

Here is our beloved Marmee’s soul laid out in her own journal entries. It was so brilliant to read the familiar plot points of Little Women but from Marmee’s particular perspective with all the hidden details that often fill a mother’s heart and mind. We are familiar with the Marmee who admitted to her spitting-image daughter Jo about her own struggles with her temper and indignation at the unfairness and injustices of the world. Furthermore, in this book, Miller expands upon those personal struggles and her journey through them and the life her beliefs and actions have built for her girls, her “little women”. Miller presents Margaret March as thoroughly human — loving, longing, struggling, working, and yearning. In the midst of “hoping and keeping busy”, we see the true needs of a woman, mother, wife, and friend presented in honest relief. Now a Marmee myself, I cried at portions, feeling indelibly seen and known in that particular capacity by this best of stories.

Before, I have always identified with Jo, but here in Miller’s well-researched and heartfully-rendered portrait, I blessedly saw my own heart reflected back at me in Marmee’s vulnerable humanity and the loving work of her life. I found myself yearning to be as lucky as John Brooke or Laurie or Birte Hummel, to be drawn into the warm circle of Marmee’s life.

It is also not only Marmee’s portrait that has been filled out by Miller’s pen. Grandfather Lawrence becomes a deeply-loving father figure that is sorely-needed, John Brooke a man thoroughly deserving of Meg and the Marches’ love (no matter Jo’s young protestations), and the Hummel family comes to rich life as full characters instead of a mere vehicle for lessons in kindness and sacrifice.

While Miller does indeed make some changes to this well-worn story, I found none of them to be detractors or detrimental to the effect of this gorgeous story. It is more than just a retelling, it is a new side of the much-beloved story of the March Family. Miller has drawn the stitches between the fictional Marches and the humanly real Alcotts tighter and embroidered them with stunning flourishes of growth, love, faith, hard work, and hope. I could not have asked for or even dreamed of a better novel with which to begin 2023. It has done my heart and soul unspeakable good and has become one that I will undoubtedly recommend over and over again. Thank you, Sarah Miller, for all your hope and hard work in producing a book of such feeling and skill. Thank you for giving me a story that shall find its way into my own Marmee’s hands as well as next to my childhood and anniversary editions of Little Women, in pride of place among my most cherished volumes. A place among my treasures, for that is what it is: a treasure.


Evenings’ Readings

I’m getting back into the practice of reading before bed. So here are my bedtime books for the past two nights:

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day. I haven’t really been a big fan of Felicia’s before but I really enjoy her writing style. It’s bright and conversational and fun. Feels like chatting over dessert.

Hamilton: The Revolution by Jeremy McCarter and Lin-Manuel Miranda. This tome is big and beautiful and an utter delight. I am a process person so reading about Lin and Hamilton’s process of becoming is amazing. And his libretto annotations? Sheer joy!

Keep Reading, My Darlings

I am sitting here, still riding the high of having read three books this month (it’s been literally years since that happened) and surrounded by books that I want to read next. It feels like there are so very many of them, though, far more than the five that are currently at the top of my to-read pile. I am almost starting to despair of getting any of them read in a month. I know that I shouldn’t despair, I have no reason to. I have already made good progress on one beautiful novel (Clockwork Lives by Kevin J. Anderson and Neil Peart) and May has just begun. I have time, as long as I take my fringe moments and make use of them and feed my soul with literary beauty.

There are so many gorgeous stories, so many heartfelt biographies, and books on living, feeling, connecting, writing, and being heartful. I want to devour them all, pull them deep down into my belly, and let them sink into my blood. Books will forever be the balloons that carry my imagination aloft, feed my creativity, and buoy my soul.

Keep reading, my dears. Keep devouring those stories. Keep pulling them deep down into your belly. Keep letting them sink into your blood, their words swirling in your veins, and worlds stored up in your heart. For Heaven’s sake, keep reading!



This is NOT my work. I don’t know who to credit but, if you see this, thank you for your beautiful artistry! 


Once a Lost Girl…

Ruth B’s single “Lost Boy” has been moving quite fluidly across the airwaves of late,  sung in her dreamy, soulful voice, though I first heard it when a friend of mine shared a YouTube video of the song to my Facebook page, saying that it reminded them of me. I take that as quite a compliment, personally. The first half of the song goes like this:

There was a time when I was alone
Nowhere to go and no place to call home
My only friend was the man in the moon
And even sometimes he would go away, too

Then one night, as I closed my eyes
I saw a shadow flying high
He came to me with the sweetest smile
Told me he wanted to talk for a while
He said, “Peter Pan, that’s what they call me
I promise that you’ll never be lonely, ” and ever since that day

I am a lost boy from Neverland
Usually hanging out with Peter Pan
And when we’re bored we play in the woods
Always on the run from Captain Hook
“Run, run, lost boy, ” they say to me
Away from all of reality

When I was a child, the first storybook character I fell in love with (yes, I believe that I loved him with all my little-girl heart) was Peter Pan. I had a beautifully illustrated storybook, a book on tape, loved the Disney movie (was so jealous that Tiger Lily got to “kiss” Peter), watched the “Peter Pan and the Pirates” television series on Fox in the mornings before school, had my blue “Wendy” nightdress, and had the Mary Martin production of Peter Pan memorized (still sing “Once Upon a Time” and “I Won’t Grow Up”). It’s safe to say that I was a bit obsessed with Peter Pan and all the characters therein.

When I was a child, I didn’t have many friends. I was small, skinny, awkward, studious, always with my nose in a book. Not many people wanted to associate with that, particularly in the first half of middle school. So I turned to my books and movies (which were mostly based on books), to the characters held within them who had ever been steadfast friends. I was a Lost Girl in truth. I could sink myself into those stories, let the characters pull me along to join them on their adventures, and live a thousand lives that I would never have in the real world. I was happy as a Lost Girl, in Never Land. I was happy with the dream of Peter (who, interestingly, has continued to grow as I have grown) coming to my window, taking my hand with that handsome, sweet grin, and flying me off to somewhere where I could be more than what I was. Where I could be a Lost Girl, not just little Melissa. Where I could talk with mermaids, fly with fairies, fight pirates, and dance with Tiger Lily.

Where I could be someone else. More than what I was.

Even now, I am still a Lost Girl. I still run off with these characters and dive into their stories, their ranks having swelled over the thirty-some years of my life. Dear friends and new, they make me happy to be a Lost Girl. In fact, there are two new books on my table, two new shedloads of characters just waiting to take me on their adventures and share with me their realities.

As a matter of fact…I think that’s a tap on my window. Excuse me.



A Long Way from Home – Day 6: What Am I Waiting For?

Highlights from my morning reading: 

Simply Tuesday, Chapter 5: “Success and Envy”, by Emily P. Freeman:

“True smallness is an invitation to live as I was meant to live, to accept my humanity, and to offer my ability and my inability, my sin and my success, my messes and my masterpieces into the hands of God.” – pg 94

“What is good for my inner health is often frustrating for my work [as a hard worker who is also a slow processor].” – pg 95

“The soul and the schedule don’t follow the same rules.” – pg 95

“I cannot wait for the world to stop to embrace my permission for slow.” – pg 96

“And here’s to not letting our slowness boss us. Embrace it and learn it, but don’t force perfection. Let slow do what slow does best: nourish, strengthen, and hold.” – pg 97

= = = =

When  I read the bolded statement above, I gave a little mental wince, as if I had been caught out. And I was in a way. This is what I have been doing, is it? Waiting for the world to stop, or to at least pause a little, so I can embrace slow for my soul and take some rest. Something this week is teaching me is that I cannot wait around for someone to offer to slow my world down for me, to give me a chance to rest and care for myself. I have to take the initiative, ask for the help, and slow down when I need to slow down.

My weariness is catching up with me. I can truly feel it today, the tiredness sitting heavily on me, urging me to just stay in bed and sleep, sleep, sleep. Unfortunately, that’s not entirely possible with a three-year-old child and grandparents with their own schedules and engagements to keep. So I have done my best today to occupy my daughter with her own self-activities in between play time and meals so that I can rest as much as I can. It’s been a good day.

The days are winding down and soon I will be home but I will do my best to make the best of these days, to slow and rest and to listen and come away when my heart and soul feel called.

Words, Folding and Piercing


This is true not only of the words we read but definitely also of the words that we say.

“The world out there? It’s a tough place right now, you know? Sometimes, it feels like people are more interested in being right than being kind. Some want to have the last word, the final say, and the smug comeback. I see it too often: how people choose vitriol over virtue.

And that’s just the public word exchanges.

Some of us know painfully well how words behind closed doors can cut the deepest.

I have both loved and hated words. They have been used to heal me, and to hurt me.

You too?

We are all shaped by the words spoken over us. The names we’ve been called on the playground. The inspiring pep talks our parents gave us. The words the counselor spoke over us. The insults from the boss. The gentle affirmation from the kind lady who always sat in the last pew.

Behold the power of the spoken word:

“The tongue has the power of life and death.” {Proverbs 18:21}.

Words start wars, and they spark peace.

They are shadows, and they are chains. But they are also wings and freshest air.

Words can take you prisoner, or they can set you free.

Our words always fold into the souls of other human beings. That’s no small thing.Jennifer Dukes Lee

Searching for a little balance

Quotes from chapter 2 of The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You, by Jessica N. Turner:

“When we live using our God-given talents and passions, I believe we are pleasing him and more fully living the life we were born to live.”

“In our mess, God makes us strong. In your glorious imperfection, you can still shine beautifully bright. Embrace that truth. Stop trying to be everything for everyone and start investing in who and what really matters.” (Emphasis mine)

I have always felt the need to be everything for everyone (or what everyone expects) and to be excellent at it, what’s more. Still do at times, to be perfectly honest. I am trying to better learn and practice self-care. That doesn’t mean that I don’t care about everyone. It just means I care about myself, too. I know the burnout that comes from stretching too thin or giving so much outside of me that there’s nothing left for me – time, emotion, thought, etc. I’m endeavoring to find that precious balance and this book is very encouraging this far. ^_^

Travel by Map

I walk into a bookstore or library and instantly feel at home, welcomed, wanted. I pause, just standing inside the door for a moment, looking around to get my bearings, and begin to develop a map of this beautiful new world that I am about to encounter. I search for my safety zones first: Literature, Young Adult Fiction, Graphic Novels, and Children’s Books. I traverse through these territories on my map, looking for undiscovered countries and worlds to add to my travels.

Sometimes, I settle down for a while in order to take things in more deeply, more fully, to observe the locals and their customs, to hear their language. All of this helps in my decision whether to cut my visit short or stay for a prolonged time, whether or not I will return at a later date. There are castles and monarchs to visit, black-and-white circus tents to explore, games of Triumphs to be played, secret stories to hear, mysteries to solve with Victorian aristocracy. There’s so much to do and only so much time right now.

Children’s Books is a whimsical world of color, animals both real and fantastic, outrageous costumes, strange customs, and beautiful lands. It makes me smile just crossing into that territory and, once again, I pause to get my bearings. The younger lands are my favorites, where imagination and magic still run rampant without some of the rules that have been imposed by the older worlds. Wyveraries (wyverns/libraries) walk around in the open, reciting all they know about their particular letter ranges. Children flit and fly about with reckless abandon (oh, watch your head!), chasing after the bread-and-butterflies that tease them. Mighty battles are fought by the tiniest of creatures, showing bravery beyond the measure of size. Ducklings offer pigeons cookies, and princesses dance their shoes to pieces of a night. I love the rampant magic, imagination, and amazing fantasy of these worlds and I wish I could stay longer. But I have many miles to go and my time is beginning to run short, unfortunately. I must hurry.

Soon, I make ready to leave this beautiful map of imagination, my arms full of new treasures, as well as some rediscovered ones. These treasures carry the souls of these worlds and their inhabitants within them, souls that glow with a light beyond anything that can be captured in paint, charcoal, or on film. They capture the essence and beauty of their respective worlds and I carry that beautiful essence with me always, in my heart and mind, as well as in my hands.

As I move to step out the doors again, I risk one look back with a smile and the silent, ever-present promise.

I will come back. I will always come back.

Sharing Neverland with My Child

Yesterday, I reached 22 weeks (5 1/2 months) in my pregnancy and I came to a decision of something I wanted to do. I have begun reading Peter Pan to my unborn child. The story is so enchanting, the memory of it so ingrained in me that I cannot think of not sharing it with my baby. I have a beautiful copy that I believe I received as a gift several years ago. Just reading the first paragraph makes me smile, even with the admittance that “Two is the beginning of the end. (page 1)” I don’t believe that, of course, but that’s the fun of it.

Even now, I’m watching my belly jump and move as my child squirms and stretches and kicks, and I’m imagining him or her running around the house pretending to fly. I want to cuddle my baby and read to them, letting them get to know my voice, my cadence, my love for story, even before they can full realize it. So far we have read through chapter 1 and the first few pages of chapter 2, and I could still feel Baby moving as I read, responding, hopefully, to the becoming-familiar sound of my voice. I want my children to know about conspicuous kisses in the corner of your mouth, to fall asleep safely to nightlights that watch over them, know that Momma is there to tidy up their mind at the end of the day, putting everything back in order and preparing them to have a lovely day tomorrow.

I hope and pray that our child loves books, stories, and reading as much as I and their father do. I shall do my damnedest to foster a love for all the different types of Neverlands with them, as well as explore them with my child. I will be happy to be the dragon that they chase to slay, the fairy to grant their wishes, the evil pirate whom they must battle. I want to hear my child demand of Daddy, “Tell me a story,” and then listen as my husband weaves one of his beautiful tales from mid-air and dances it in front of our child’s imagination. I have always been a Wendy – always been ‘mother’, ‘story-reader’, ‘advice giver’, ‘dreamer’. Now I get to be Mrs. Darling, a little more grown up but still with lots to learn about childhood.

And, I have to admit, I’m rather excited about that. ^_^